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21 December 2007 @ 12:33 am
One Tough Cookie  
Title: One Tough Cookie
Fandom: InuYasha
Written For: haro as a part of himitsu_santa. Merry Christmas once again ^_^
Summary: Kagome and Mama Higurashi, bonding over baking (or not) through the years.
Rating: G
AN: Thank you very much, abarero, for the beta.

One Tough Cookie

Seven-year-old Kagome leaned her head against the cold glass of the window to watch the snow. The smell of freshly-baked sweets flooded the household. Her mother had been doing that for a week now. The baby started to cry then, and Kagome got up from her seat by the window, feeling she should make herself useful, though she wasn't sure how. She had no way to help.

Her mother rushed by her, the scent of brown sugar and vanilla following like a train.

At first she had helped with the baking, not understanding why it was even happening. She understood that she must help her mother, and, if for some reason she had not understood that, every relative and friend who had come to the wake and funeral reminded her. "Help your mother", "You must help your mother now", "You will of course behave yourself and help your mother." She did not understand how baking was a help, but her mother had not instructed her to do anything else, so, alongside her mother, she baked.

But, as the hours turned to days, and the days into a week, and the baked goods piled higher and higher, Kagome began to see that this was not helping. Jii-chan didn't say or do a thing to stop her mother. Why would he? He benefited from the treats. She was the only one who could say anything. Maybe that was the way to help her mother?

Mama ran back towards the kitchen, the baby quietly resting again, but Kagome called out before her mother got too far.

"Mama, do you think we could do something. Together, I mean?"

Her mother turned as if seeing her for the very first time. "Of course, Kagome. Why don't you come to the kitchen with me? We can make some brownies. I know they're your favorite."

"I, uh, meant something that wasn't baking."

Kagome saw a sadness work into her mother's eyes, her mother's smile falter. "Well, what did you want to do?"

"I'd like to go to the zoo."

"It's too cold to go to the zoo, dear."

"I'll wrap up very tight and warm, Mama, I promise I will. I won't be any trouble."

"Oh, Kagome," her mother knelt before her. "You are almost never any trouble."

"I just don't want you to make any more food."

Her mother enveloped Kagome in a warm hug, and Kagome pretended she did not know that her mother was crying on her shoulder.

* * * *

"Mom! Mom!" Kagome had only come in the door three seconds ago, but she knew she would forget if she did not say something immediately. "Mom, the cultural festival is next week and we have to sell baked goods!" She was yelling, wanting to make sure her mother heard her no matter what, even if she happened to be in the shower or something.

But she wasn't in the shower. She was standing in the kitchen looking rather annoyed. "I can hear, Kagome."

"I didn't know where you were."

"Well, if you had waited to look around for a moment before screaming, you would have known."

Kagome ducked her head, blushing, recognizing a scolding when she heard one- as infrequently as that was.

"What was this about the cultural festival?"

"I thought you heard me."

"I did. I just don't see how it relates to me."

"Oh." Kagome ducked her head again, gathering her thoughts. She stepped further into the house and took off her outdoor shoes, changing to her home slippers. She put her backpack on a kitchen chair and sighed.

"Mama, I really need to go to be with InuYasha and the rest next week."

"And you want me to do your schoolwork for you?" Kagome could see her mother had a slight grin on her face, so maybe she wasn't as annoyed as she sounded.

"Well, it's a really big deal. I mean, when I left they were very close to finding the bad guy, and he'd put some sort of spell on..." Kagome stopped when she noticed her mother's smile grow. "Besides, you like baking," Kagome added, the argument sounding weak even to her own ears.

Her mom nodded. "I like baking for fun. That sounds more like a job," she laughed. Kagome laughed in response, but there was some nervousness to it.

A moment passed in silence, nothing decided, the tension not fully relieved, until Kagome's mom sighed and said, "Don't worry about it, dear. I know what you have to do in the past is very important."

Kagome moved around the table to hug her mom. "Thank you," she whispered into the folds of her mother's soft cotton dress.

"Oh, don't thank me. You'll want to thank Souta."

"Souta?" Kagome pulled away.

Her mother was beaming now. "He's been wanting that new gaming system, and I think I just thought of the perfect way to make him earn it."

* * * *

Kagome shut the door swiftly behind her before the chill breeze could take the heat out of her mother's house. Afterwards, she dropped her one small bag onto the floor and stumbled to the couch to sit. The flight from Osaka had been draining. Traveling always was a bit tiring, but traveling whilst four months pregnant was the worst-- finding bathrooms every four minutes, always starving, dropping off to sleep while waiting for their flight, too tired to carry the bags. And poor InuYasha! He'd been stuck with the majority of the luggage. Even now, Souta was trying to unload his arms without upsetting the precarious balance of suitcases.

"Kagome, dear," her mother plopped down next to her and threw her thin arms around Kagome. "It's such a joy to have you home. I'm so glad your school gave you leave."

Kagome smiled with more energy than she had to spend just now, and decided that she was glad, also. InuYasha worked at a shrine in Osaka, as a groundskeeper; it had been the only job he had experience or a reference for when they moved there so Kagome could start her first teaching assignment at Ichioka High School. He liked the work, though: spending the day outside, keeping his body fit. Kagome hated to think of being outside so long in this cold weather, but InuYasha never once complained.

Ichioka High School had given Kagome the rest of the term off from work for her pregnancy, her first child, so that she could go home and have the care of her mother. She wasn't receiving pay, but she would have a job to return to at the end of the summer. InuYasha's boss could say little about his leaving; groundskeepers were cheap to hire, but InuYasha worked harder than most (if not all, Kagome believed, but she also didn't think she was an impartial judge), so both he and Kagome were confident he would have a job to return to when they got back home.

Her mother must have recognized Kagome's exhaustion. She tenderly stroked Kagome's short hair. The last time her mother had seen her it had been long. The stroking made Kagome feel small, feel like a child, and she wanted to protest but she did not have the energy.

"I remember what it's like to be pregnant," her mother said quietly. "Your body's not your own any more. It demands food, it demands sleep."

Kagome listened, patient, on a cloud of her mother's words. She felt restful just hearing her mother's voice. She wondered if her child would feel that way about her, her voice. She did not think her own voice was as soothing as her mother's.

"Let me get you something," her mother said. Kagome nodded, her muscles coming unwound against the familiar old sofa.

"Tea?"

"Oh yes please, that sounds good." She smiled and blinked up at her mother, suddenly happy to feel like a child.

Her mother stood and nodded, walking toward the kitchen.

"Mama?"

"Yes dear?" Her mother turned back towards her.

"Maybe later we can bake some brownies."

"That sounds perfect, angel. But for now, just let me help you."
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